Thursday, June 23, 2011
Book Review and Kregel Blog Tour: How Huge the Night by Heather Munn and Lydia Munn/4 Stars
Fifteen-year-old Julien Losier just wants to fit in. But after his family moves to a small village in central France in hopes of outrunning the Nazis, he is suddenly faced with bigger challenges than the taunting of local teens.
Nina Krenkel left her country to obey her father's dying command: Take your brother and leave Austria. Burn your papers. Tell no one you are Jews. Alone and on the run, she arrives in Tanieux, France, dangerously ill and in despair.
Thrown together by the chaos of war, Julien begins to feel the terrible weight of the looming conflict and Nina fights to survive. As France falls to the Nazis, Julien struggles with doing what is right, even if it is not enough-and wonders whether or not he really can save Nina from almost certain death.
Based on the true story of the town of Le Chambon-the only French town honored by Israel for rescuing Jews from the Holocaust-How Huge the Night is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens turning the pages as it teaches them about a fascinating period of history and inspires them to think more deeply about their everyday choices.
I'm finding lately that I really enjoy young adult fiction. I mean *really* enjoy it! When I was in my teen years, there was not much to choose from unless I wanted to read general market. Fifteen years later, there's tons of Christian YA fiction, and well...I gotta make up for lost time!
In addition to having not read a lot of YA books, I've also not read a whole lot from the WWII period. Frankly, it's just really difficult to read. I cannot imagine living in a world of persecution and hate, being separated from my family, or having to wonder where I will get my next meal. So, it was with a little bit of nervousness that I decided to read How Huge the Night by debut authors Heather and Lydia Munn.
First of all, I loved how this story was told through a teenager's eyes. Being an adult, I know the terror I would have felt if I were a wife and mother. How would I prepare to go into a war? How will I make sure my family doesn't starve? But reading this story from a younger generation's point of view made it that much more realistic. At first, Julian was the typical teenager--frustrated with a move to a new town and a new school, struggling to make new friends--but as he matured, his focus shifted to concerns for his family, their Jewish boarder, the new friends he had made, and eventually, how the war would change all of their lives forever.
Secondly, I loved that the story was told with a French setting. While I have a very basic knowledge of WWII, I have almost no knowledge of France or French history. There were snippets of history regarding the Huguenots and their struggles for religious freedom in the 1600's, as well as details about the armistice between France and Germany, and how Germany eventually violated their agreement. I was also surprised to read at the very end that France as a whole had very little knowledge about what was actually happening around them during the war (shared in the author's note). This made me curiously wonder whether they simply did not have access to tv's or newspapers, or if the news that was brought to them had been censored. Either way, how frightening it must have been to not know what's happening in the world around you.
Also shared in the author's note was that there is another book coming soon from this talented mother/daughter team. While I have no idea if it will just be a sequel or part of a series, I wish it was available to read right now! This book did not leave me hanging per se, but I'm just itching to know what happens to Julian, Benjamin, Nina, and Gustav as the worst of the war is yet to come. I happily give a rating of 4 Stars for this exceptional debut novel.
**Many thanks to Kregel Publishing for providing a copy for review.
**For more information about the book, the authors, and the history presented, please visit http://www.howhugethenight.com/